UKRAINE/RUSSIA: Gunmen shot down 11 people at a Russian military training camp on Saturday, the defence ministry confirmed, in the latest development and serious blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces since the invasion of Ukraine.
RIA news agency cited the ministry as saying 15 other people were injured during the shooting on Saturday in Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region that borders Ukraine when two men armed with guns decided to confront a group who had volunteered to partake in the war.
The two assailants- nationals from an unspecified former Soviet republic- had been shot dead. Some Russian independent media outlets reported that the number of casualties was higher than the official figures.
“A terrible event happened on our territory, on the territory of one of the military units,” the governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said early on Sunday.
“Many soldiers were killed and wounded … There are no residents of the Belgorod region among the wounded and killed,” Gladkov said in a video post on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia-Ukraine tensions deepen
Tensions have been flaring up ever since last week. A major blast damaged the resourceful bridge in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia accuses Ukraine of “terrorism,” while Kyiv has denied these allegations. Way earlier in the war, Russia’s crucial flagship in the Black Sea blew up and sank.
“During a firearms training session with individuals who voluntarily expressed a desire to participate in the special military operation (against Ukraine), the terrorists opened fire with small arms on the unit’s personnel,” a defence ministry statement said.
Just a day before, Putin said Russia should be finished calling up reservists in two weeks, promising an end to a divisive mobilization that has seen hundreds of thousands of men summoned to fight in Ukraine and huge numbers flee the country.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a YouTube interview that the attackers were from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan and had opened fire on the others after an argument over religion.
Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim nation, while around 50% of the Russian population adheres to different branches of the Christian faith.
The Russian ministry had said the attackers were from a nation in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which groups nine ex-Soviet republics, including Tajikistan.
The independent Russian news website SOTA Vision reported that the attack occurred in the small town of Soloti, close to the Ukrainian border, just 105 km (65 miles) southeast of Belgorod.
In other major developments in the war, heavy shelling was reported in the Nikopol and Dnepropetrovsk regions. 40 Russian shells flew there, and a 47-year-old man was injured.
Several fires started as a result of the shelling. The attack severely damaged the areas- almost 30 multi-story and private houses were destroyed, along with an industrial enterprise, several cars, gas pipelines, and power lines.
More than 1,500 families were rendered powerless without electricity.
Meanwhile, Zelensky said on Saturday that Ukraine was still holding on to the strategic eastern town of Bakhmut, which sits on the main road leading to the major cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Despite repeated Russian attacks in the area, Ukrainian forces have held their ground.
In the 24 hours to Sunday morning, Russian forces targeted more than 30 towns and villages across Ukraine, launching five missile and 23 air strikes and up to 60 rocket attacks, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.
In response, Ukraine’s air forces carried out 32 strikes, hitting 24 Russian targets.
Fighting is particularly intense in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and the strategically important Kherson province in the south, three of the four provinces that Putin “annexed.”
Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday that its forces had killed scores of Ukraine soldiers and destroyed five tanks near the Kakhovka Reservoir on the Dnipro River.
Although Ukrainian forces have secured significant victories in the recent counter-offensive measures in the east and south, officials say Kyiv’s battle streak may be met with even more resistance in the following weeks.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces and civilians have heavily relied on Starlink internet service provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company.
Musk said on Friday that he has no more funds to keep the operation going but assured on Saturday that he would continue to provide internet service in any way possible.
Zelensky said almost 65,000 Russians had been killed since the February 24 invasion, a figure far higher than Moscow’s official September 21 estimate of 5,937 dead. In August, the Pentagon said Russia had suffered between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties, either killed or wounded.